More unmarked graves discovered in search of Tulsa Massacre victims


As part of the city’s efforts to locate unidentified victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, 17 additional adult burials have been discovered at an Oaklawn Cemetery dig site, the archeologist said Monday. State of Oklahoma.

The city is in the midst of a years-long investigation into the events of the 1921 massacre, which was inflicted by a violent white mob that targeted black residents and destroyed Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, a thriving black economic center. As many as 300 people were killed and more than 1,000 homes were reportedly destroyed, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.

Only 26 death certificates were issued in 1921 for black victims of the massacre, according to the city, of which 21 were believed to be buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.

After a dig at the cemetery last year resulted in 19 exhumations, the city began a second dig on Oct. 26, according to an inquest update. The effort uncovered 16 exposed adult graves and one partially exposed grave, according to Oklahoma State archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

Hand searches around the coffins are underway to help determine which remains are candidates for exhumation and examination at a forensic lab, Stackelbeck said in an update posted on Facebook. The city also said a forensic team would be on site to help collect viable DNA samples.

“We try to do every step of this process as respectfully as possible,” Stackelbeck said. “And so we also plan to have members of the public oversight committee who are going to assist us in the process of transporting the remains from the excavation area to the forensic laboratory.”

The public oversight committee includes deceased individuals and black Tulsa community leaders who are advising the city during its investigation, according to the city’s website.

Stackelbeck said a pastor, reverend or other clergy member may also be present when the remains are transported.

The remains that were exhumed during the 2021 excavations have been reinterred, according to the city.

The investigation is working with several expert partners to conduct forensic genetic genealogy analysis to identify the victims who are in the unmarked graves, in addition to collecting other oral histories and historical documents related to the massacre.


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